Quick - what does WNLR stand for? If you know the answer, you probably belong to (or know somebody in) our local running club. If you don’t know … just keep reading.
We’ve mentioned WNLRs in this column before but never really given them a proper introduction. And since we’ve finally run out of Big Sur Marathon stories for this year, we figured that it’s about time we did.
WNLRs are the heart and soul of the Monterey and Salinas running community. The official name of the club is the Monterey Bay Wednesday Night Laundry Runners – you can see why we prefer the acronym - and we are both long time members.
The club has about 260 members, who come from all walks of life. Many have been running for decades, but there are also a large number of beginners. The youngest member is 17 and there are several over age 70. The percentages of men and women are roughly equal.
The only qualification to become a member is to have a love of running. But that’s not to say there aren’t some serious runners. Over the years, a few WNLRs have become Olympians, and many others compete in local, regional, and national competitions.
The club’s origins go back more than 40 years, to a group of runners who met on a weekly basis every Wednesday night. The meeting place was near the Pacific Grove High School track, across the street from the Mission Laundry office. The club name makes perfect sense now, right?
The club’s newsletter is called the Communique, with the apt slogan, “All of the news of the fit in print”. It explains the club origin this way: a “loosely organized running club was formed one August in the Mid 1960’s after several runners ran as fast as they could through the Del Monte Forest for about an hour and then consumed large quantities of pizza and beverages.” That could pretty much describe many WNLR runs today, also.
The Wednesday Night Laundry Run continues to this day, and anyone is welcome to attend. The course is roughly 7 miles long run, traveling into the Del Monte Forest, up formidable Congress Hill, and past the Robert Louis Stevenson high school track before heading back to the start.
In the summer, the run starts at 5:30PM on the dot, so get there a bit early if you want to join them. Then feel free to follow the runners to a pizza joint or local pub afterwards.
There are regularly scheduled group runs on weekends, and smaller “splinter” groups in various areas during the week. The largest groups, that provide you with the best chance of finding someone at a compatible running pace, meet on Saturday morning at 7:15 near the foot of Ocean Avenue in Carmel, or Sunday morning at 8:30 at the Fishwife restaurant in the Asilomar area of Pacific Grove.
On the Salinas side, you’ll usually find a group of WNLRs at the Toro Park shopping center ready to run at 6:30 on Saturday or Sunday morning.
If you are inclined to do speedwork and run at the track, you can find WNLRs in clumps at Monterey Peninsula College on Monday nights at 5:30 or at Hartnell College in Salinas at 5:45AM on Thursdays.
So what’s in it for you if you join the WNLRs? In addition to improving your chances of getting in shape (that peer pressure thing is pretty powerful), membership is one of the best bargains in town.
For the unprincely sum of $10 per year, you get 4 to 6 newsletters per year, invitations to free pizza parties 3 or 4 times a year and other social activities. You also get 20% off shoes at The Treadmill store in the Carmel Crossroads, which may (depending on how many shoes you buy) fully offset your membership costs.
You also receive group e-mails telling you about events that are happening in the running community, and you’ll have access to great advice from fellow runners. Best of all, you’ll meet people who are very interesting and a lot of fun. There are certainly worse ways to spend ten dollars.
Another great thing about the WNLRs is the way they give back to the Central
Coast community in many ways. For example, this spring, WNLR members (along with a generous donation from the Big Sur Marathon) presented over $8,200 in college scholarships to deserving high school senior distance runners.
The WNLR Scholarship committee received nominations from local cross country and track coaches, and made decisions based on very difficult criteria. Scholarships were awarded only to those with high academic achievement, love of running, demonstrated leadership, extracurricular activities, success in running competition, and a rigorous interview. Winners must be planning on continuing their running at either a 2 year or 4 year college.
This year’s winners are Hector Aleman (Seaside), Mark Blucher (Alvarez), Francisco Cornejo (North Monterey), Thea Lee (Carmel), Shannon McVannel (Salinas), Steven Otero (Palma), Ty Rothstein (Carmel), and Cynthia Toth (Carmel). Congratulations to all of them.
These runners exemplify all that is great about running, and reflect the spirit of the
WNLRs. We wish them continued success in college and beyond. And if they eventually settle down in Monterey or Salinas, we’d be proud to have them join the WNLRs for life.